Monday, June 3, 2013

Titanic Troubles, Part 1: Marvel Feature 12

Marvel Feature #12 (November 1973)
"Bite of the Blood Brothers!"
Writer:  Mike Friedrich
Pencils:  Jim Starlin
Inks:  Joe Sinnott

Karen: It's June, things are heating up (especially where I am), and all this month we're going to be tackling that terrible Titan, Thanos! Now, we have checked him out before around these parts, and if you want to get the full chronological effect, you should stop reading now, and go back to this review of Iron Man #55, which was the big guy's first appearance. Then come right back here for some more fun. You could also check out our review of Marvel Feature #11 if you want to know why the Thing is wandering around the desert of what seems to be either New Mexico or Arizona. For now, it's enough to say that the Thing is a long way from home, or anybody's home, for that matter. Ben is lamenting his luck at not being able to leap across the desert like the Hulk when who should come flying by but Iron Man -- but the Golden Avenger buzzes right past him, not even slowing down! This really riles Ben.

Doug:  Jim Starlin does a nice job, facing the obstacle that all artists face when drawing Iron Man's faceplate -- how to show emotion in ol' Shellhead.  Choosing a downturned vent for the mouth helps, and varying the camera angles assists in playing up angst, wonder, and determination.  It's a pretty good strategy.  And yeah -- Ben was pretty miffed, as well he should have been!

Karen: Time to check in with the other half of this team-up, Iron Man. Turns out he's following up on his encounter with Thanos in the previously-mentioned Iron Man #55, and events that occurred in Captain Marvel #28, when Thanos acquired the Cosmic Cube.  He's decided to check up on Thanos' old base, where he and Drax the Destroyer had fought the Titan's henchmen, the Blood Brothers. While he pokes around, he's unaware that the Blood Brothers are still there and are watching him and awaiting orders from Thanos.  Meanwhile, the Thing is headed over a dune and just about ready to give Shellhead a piece of his mind.

Doug:  I never know what to make of the Blood Brothers.  First off, they could be brothers-from-another-mother in regard to Mr. Grimm -- it's like the same head, different color!  And then they dress alike, which is just too weird.  And lastly, it just seems that no matter where they turn up, they're just eventually going to get a beatdown from whomever they're facing that month.  Upon further review, I did not realize that part of their strength is derived from their physical proximity to each other.  That's an interesting twist, I suppose.

Karen: Although I am a huge fan of Starlin's art, I've always thought that he's had some trouble drawing the Thing  -- as do many artists. But here, teamed with Joe Sinnott, who probably knows the Thing as well as any artist, he looks great. I do think that the art has lost some of the Starlin style but it is still pretty solid. 

Doug:  I've been waiting to ask, since seeing the splash page -- do you prefer your vision of Ben Grimm with small rocks or large?  Here Starlin uses the small-rock motif, which I tend to think makes Ben look a little less powerful -- even shorter in height.  I'm using the massive Avengers vs. Thanos tpb (highly recommended!) as my resource, and your point about Joe Sinnott is a strong argument.  While we get to see Starlin under the influence of several inkers in that tome, there don't seem to be any who "hide" Starlin as Sinnott does.  But I still like Joe, don't get me wrong!

Karen: I guess I had not given small rocks vs. large much thought, but for me it's more a sense of uniformity: does Ben's  hide look 'right'? Some artists just can't seem to get it to look like all the stones/scales belong together. Here, they do. From his throne on Titan, Thanos gives the word: kill Iron Man! The Blood Brothers, who resemble lumpy gorillas, begin stalking Iron Man as he walks through the darkened base. The two aliens ambush him from above, nearly pinning him to the ground, but Shellhead manages to get free and blast them with his repulsors. However it only momentarily stuns them. These two really give Iron Man a hard time -- it's a reminder that he wasn't always a powerhouse like he is now. He tries to rocket off, to get some "Avengers reinforcements" when he runs right into Ben, sending him flying and knocking both of them out. The Blood Brothers get a good hoot out of this. Ben starts to recover, but one of the Blood Brothers viciously punches him in the back of the head and puts him down for the count. We view the scene from within the Cosmic Cube, as Thanos projects his voice and tells his minions they have done well. They are in awe of his godlike power. We pull back to see Thanos holding the Cube, with his brother Eros and father Mentor held captive behind him. Thanos then orders the deaths of Iron Man and the Thing.

Doug:  Your remark about IM not always being a powerhouse actually touches on some conversations we've had here in our comments over the past few weeks, and that's the ridiculous power levels of heroes these days.  I like this version of Iron Man, with the classic armor that always seems to run out of energy at the most inopportune time.  Sure, it's a built-in plot device, but it makes for some creative solutions.  You know, Thanos doesn't really do anything in this story, but then those sorts of villains are the most dangerous -- "I don't need to sully my hands with the likes of you."  It's pretty obvious that he's of the caliber of a Dr. Doom or some similar megalomaniacal antagonist. 

Karen: The Blood Brothers advance on Ben and Iron Man, who are both beginning to recover consciousness.  Shockingly, in a three-panel progression, one blood brother slowly opens his mouth as he looms over Ben, and we see sharp fangs bared! It appears there is a reason they are called "blood" brothers! The villain clamps down on Ben's shoulder (he doesn't really have a neck!) and Ben's eyes go wide! Ben is appalled  -"Ya dirty vampires!" - and then it's clobberin' time! He pounds his attacker, and then pulls one of Doug's favorite (!) stunts -- he pulls up the stone floor like a rug! But the two brothers soon combine their attack and Ben is in trouble.

Doug:  Ah, yes -- I believe Mr. Bill Foster was the recipient of my last "that's just a stupid idea" award.  But it always does make a cool visual -- if totally improbable.  I thought Starlin and Sinnott just did a great job of portraying Ben's attitude throughout the story.  He started off mad out of his mind, stayed that way through the story, and we just always know it!  If you look, his mouth is always drawn open, but his eyes and eyebrow are used to convey the varying degrees of his disgust with the whole situation.  I was a little surprised by the vampire maneuver, because if I previously knew that about these two goons I had forgotten it.

Karen: Luckily, either due to the solar rays or his own inner strength, Shellhead gets his act together and charges into the two aliens, bowling them over. The fight gets so furious, they bring down part of the mountain. This is to the heroes' advantage. Even so, it takes some teamwork between the two to defeat the brawny Blood Brothers. Seeing his thugs beaten, Thanos uses the power of the Cube to teleport them away -or did he disintegrate them for their failure? Ben and Shellhead wonder what the brothers' fate is. Unfortunately for Ben, the fight took up most of Iron Man's power, and Ben is too big for him to carry back. So our hero ends this tale the same way he began it: hoofing it through the desert!

Doug:  The ending battle is well done, with both heroes being on equal footing in the butt-kicking department.  I'm not sure what I thought about Ben suggesting the two of them combine their strength by having Iron Man basically whip up a fastball special (well, as much as he could with a 500 lb. anthropomorphic weight) -- it certainly didn't play like some of the combined efforts we've seen from the X-Men, but then those were generally energy-based heroes strutting their stuff.  In the end, it doesn't matter -- the baddies are defeated and Thanos is thwarted (although you'd think a guy with a Cosmic Cube would just wish his nemeses away and be done with it).  And as to Ben's fate -- well, he is a loveable loser at times, isn't he?

Karen: This was a fun, light story, obviously only tangentially connected to the main Thanos-Cosmic Cube saga, but worth giving a look. As Doug said earlier, it's interesting to see how Starlin looks with a variety of inkers. We've discussed it before, Sinnott tends to be somewhat overpowering and although I can still see Starlin in there, it's also unmistakably Sinnott. Once we move on to the Captain Marvel issues in our story we'll see two other inkers on Starlin, Dan Green and Klaus Janson, and those will be very different looks.

Karen: Before our next review in this series, which will be Captain Marvel #32, you might want to check out this review I did of Captain Marvel #31, way back in 2009. It's brief, but should get you caught up. 


Fred W. Hill said...

For once getting in early comments before I go to work! Anyhow, I didn't get ahold of this until over a decade after it came out, although I did get the previous issues as well as the 1st issue of MTIO. Not really an integral part of the original Thanos epic but a fun romp anyhow. My introduction to the Blood Brothers was in an Iron Man mag of several years later and neither under Starlin nor anyone else have they been portrayed as a credible threat -- potentially very dangerous but not particularly bright. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that Thanos would punish them for their failure to kill Iron Man & the Thing but just let the heroes go, although Starlin later provided the explanation that Thanos was sparing his enemies at this point because he wanted them to worship him. Works as well as anything else.
As for Starlin's version of Ben, yeah, he did look different from what I was used to, even with Sinnott's inks, but Starlin was very good at providing expressions on Ben's craggy face.

Edo Bosnar said...

Still waiting for my copy of Essential Capt. Marvel vol. 2 to show up in the mail (should be any day now). Then I'll be able to more intelligently discuss the subject matter of these reviews - and probably end up leaving comments on those virtually prehistoric (in BAB terms) reviews you linked here.

I will comment on the art, though: it seems serviceable, but not much beyond that - and I say this is a pretty big admirer of both Starlin and Sinnott. Even so, I really like the way the Thing is draw here. I think Starlin had a pretty good handle on him.

david_b said...

Ah, ONE of my FAVORITE first issues, from that spectacular, magical era of Marvel Universe 1973... I grabbed every, EVERY comic I could find with either FF or Avengers or Captain America or Spidey in it.., with my Blish Trek paperbacks, my new Captain America beach towel and FOOM poster adorning my inner sanctum.

"I was Dorothy headin' into Oz, Dark Side-style, folks."

First off, Starlin's Thing. Not agreed by most here, but he does an OUTSTANDING Thing, Sinnott's help is always welcome of course, but I still enjoy the early scenes in MF 11 with Ben's anquish scenes with Reed and Johnny. Starlin brings a lot of great expression to Ben's eyes and stances, and draws his body suitably bulky, embracing the 'little rock' look on par with Big John's work in FF.

I vividly recall just having picked up MF 11 and thinkin' 'Geez, how can they write a more fun issue with Ben Grimm' and here comes ish 12. It's a funny, breezy summer read, probably one of the smoothest teamups, not much of an intro is needed. It was my first Blood Brothers story, so I just assumed they were a couple of Thanos thugs.

The entire 'vampire aspect' is pretty moot though.., I don't recall any other stories where they sucked blood or what became of their victims (perhaps someone can assist here..).

All in all, a fantastic intro to the 'soon-to-arrive' new team-up title. Having finally purchased MTIO ish 1 last week, that was certainly an underwhelming story (w/Man Thing), but the new title would soon get it's groove back with it's following stories.

As mentioned, not knowing any of the still-new Thanos storyline at that time, it was a great story back in the day to recommend to friends and it became one of the most fun chapters of the entire Thanos storyline (still reading the Thanos vs. Avengers TPB..).

I rank it as a minor Bronze Age triumph.

Doug said...

Thanks, all, for your own comments and evaluations today!

Fred, nice to see you "wake up" with the Bronze Age Babies for once!

And I'd like to publicly wish my wife a happy 25th wedding anniversary today -- that woman has allowed me to spend a small fortune on comics, action figures, and all sorts of trade paperbacks and hardcovers through the years. She also sometimes gives me a look out of the corner of her eye as I work on the blog "again?" But I couldn't do anything in life without her overwhelming support, and that's unequivocally what she's given me -- going all the way back to 1984 when we first met as 18-year olds working in the same restaurant. Thanks, Kel!


Edo Bosnar said...

Happy anniversary, Kel & Doug!

david_b said...

Mega-Ditto's Doug and Kel.

My Mrs and I just celebrated our 15th.. Our shared enjoyment of 'Big Bang Theory' of late has allowed her to embrace my geekness just a tad more, and my online spending still stays pretty healthy ('More points for her frequent flyer miles' I typically point out..).


Doug said...

Thanks, Edo and David (and Karen offline, too)!

I used the affectionate "Kel" in my previous comment; if anyone cares, it's "Kelli".

Here's the somewhat-scary part of it: our oldest son is mere months away from being as old as we were when we married. Now that is hard to wrap the mind around!

But back to today's post... You know another all-powerful weapon we could have discussed last week in the Discuss post of the same name? How about the Molecule Man's "magic wand"? Wasn't it imbued with the power of the Cosmic Cube at some point?


Fred W. Hill said...

Happy anniversaries, Doug & David and wives!
Back online after getting home from work, doing some yardwork and cleaning up after & feeding my 3 cats. BTW, totally agree with ya about Starlin's rendition of Ben Grimm, David. This & the previous issue make a nice little couplet from Starlin focusing on our favorite Thing!

Anonymous said...

Yes, happy anniversaries guys! My wife and I will make 25 in November, God willing.

Great review and great memories. I was just getting into Marvel the Summer this one came out and I remember it well. Looking forward to a month of Thanos.


Doug said...

Hey, gang --

I was browsing a bookseller who I've dealt with in the past, and discovered that they've really expanded their online catalog. In fact, they have a listing of over 600 books in the graphic novels & comics section. It would be worth your while to surf through the entire list (I set it to display 100 items, and then there were only 7 pages). There are tons of collections, including a bazillion Masterworks at 45-50% off.


Doug said...

And thanks to all for the kind wishes; Tom's comment actually came in while I was typing my previous comment.


Anonymous said...

Happy 25th Anniversary Doug & Kelli!

First off, while Starlin and Sinnott do a great job depicting our favourite ever lovin' blue eyed Thing, I must admit I like him drawn with the bigger rocks. It makes him look more powerful for some reason. However, whether small rocks or big rocks, it's still a departure from Ben's initially lumpy appearance in the very earliest issues of the FF.

Nice teamup with ol' Shellhead in this story. The Blood Brothers as bloodsuckers were appropriately nasty.

- Mike 'wait, how did Iron Man get home if most of his power was used up?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

B Smith said...

Y'know, that could make a good standby subject when all else fails - "Paying tribute to the loved ones who put up with our brand of nonsense"

Mr Starlin and I parted company about the time of Metamorphosis Odyssey, but this was fine stuff indeed.

William said...

My copy of "Avengers vs. Thanos" just got delivered in the mail today, and it includes Marvel Feature #12. I've actually read it before in the "Life and Death of Captain Marvel" trade, but this new book has a lot of stuff other I've never read, plus one of my all-time favorite stories from Avengers Annual #7, and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2. ill probably read it this weekend.

Also, Happy 25th Anniversary Doug and Kel!!

The wife and I will be celebrating our 22nd in a couple of weeks ourselves.

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, thanks for that link. Unfortunately (and as I suspected) they don't ship abroad. Oh, well. I did a little window shopping, anyway - there are truly some great deals there on quite a few books I've been wanting for some time now.

Rip Jagger said...

Happy anniversary Doug! We others in the "Brotherhood of Pain" salute your stalwart effort to stay the marital course!

As for Jim Starlin's Thanos stories, they are sublime. The way this saga slowly rolled out in this comic then another was pure pleasure back in the day. I own this particular comic story several times at least.

As for Starlin's Thing, I'm a bit more of two minds. I think the problem is that despite the lush Sinnott inking, Starlin's Thing has a rocky hide made up of scales/pebbles which are too much the same size. Kirby's great feat was making them somewhat more random allowing the whole to exceed the sum of the parts. With Starlin, I end up focusing on the parts too much.

I do like that his Thing is a bit smaller and hence feistier.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this was Thanos at his creepiest...back when he was more of a schemer than some cosmic upstart punk who tried to take control of the was almost like he was afraid to use the cube to its full potential, or even kill his father or his brother, even after killing his mother. It must've been weird inside that guy's head.

Edo Bosnar said...

Finally read it this morning on the way to work (yet another advantage of public transport). Don't have much to add, except that I liked the little nod Friedrich (probably influenced by Starlin) gave to the Rolling Stones: Thanos giving orders to the Blood Brothers through the Cosmic Cube is referred to as "this satanic majesty's request." Cute.

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